High Interest Rates Could Have Been Avoided if The Fed Acted Sooner, Says Mohamed El-Erian

Mohamed El Erian
Mohamed El Erian

Higher interest rates that soar faster and last longer, in addition to the increased risk of an economic recession, could have been avoided if the Federal Reserve had acted sooner to tame inflation, Mohamed El-Erian said on Wednesday.

The top economist’s comments came after the Fed on Wednesday raised interest rates by another 0.75 percentage points for the third time in a row to tame rising prices. Higher interest rates result in less borrowing, consequently cooling demand throughout the economy, but the move risks slowing growth so much the economy could fall into a recession.

“Rates that go higher, faster and stay there longer” and the elevated risk of a recession could have been avoided had the Fed responded in a timely fashion to cool inflation, El-Erian wrote in a tweet on Wednesday after the Fed’s rate decision announcement.

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The Fed has hiked rates five times this year, with more significant increases taking place faster over the months as it races to curb inflation, which hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. Inflation cooled in the months following but was still high at 8.3% in August.

“Rather than lead markets in battling inflation, the Fed has been forced to follow them,” El-Erian wrote in a separate opinion piece for CNN published on Wednesday ahead of the central bank’s rate announcement. “Yet, because it has been so late in responding, the Fed will be aggressively hiking into a weakening domestic and global economy.”

Following the Fed’s moves, many have lost faith in the central bank, and some went to say that hey see the Fed”as part of the problem and not part of the solution,” added El-Erian, who is the chief advisor to Allianz and the president of Queens’ College at Cambridge University in the UK. He was previously the CEO of US bond-fund giant Pimco.

“There is an increasing number of economists warning that the Fed will tip the US into recession; and a growing number of foreign policymakers complaining that the world’s most powerful and systemically important central bank is pulling the rug out from under an already fragile global economy,” he wrote on CNN.

In March, Jerome Powell, the current Fed chair, admitted in a congressional hearing that the central bank should have acted earlier.

“Hindsight says we should have moved earlier,” Powell said, per Bloomberg. “It’s just taking so much longer for the supply side to heal than we thought.”

Last month, Powell warned that cooling inflation “will bring some pain to households and businesses.”